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Father, son work to restore church

Visitors will be welcome this weekend at the former Rosebank Brethren in Christ Church one mile west and two miles north of Ramona. Thane “Jay” Plank, 68, of Ramona purchased the building several years ago and is working to restore it to its former glory.

The facility will be open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Coffee and cookies will be offered, and bathrooms will be available.

Plank said he bought the building because his father, the Rev. Cecil Plank, served the church for 30 years. Jay grew up at Hope and graduated from Hope High School in 1960.

He and his parents later moved to California. After his parents’ deaths, their bodies were brought back to Kansas to be buried in the church cemetery.

“This is my roots,” Plank said.

Plank’s son, Justin, along with his fiancée, Alicia Youngberg, moved from Nevada to Ramona a month ago. All three have been working together to make the building usable again.

Plank would like to see it used as a nondenominational or community church. If that does not happen, he said, it could be used as a community center for meetings and a place where young people could meet for social times and recreation. The carpeted sanctuary has no pews but would provide a large meeting room.

Rosebank was a community established by settlers in the 1880s. The Rosebank School existed a mile east and a half-mile north of the church for many years. Plank said the church took its name from the school. The town of Ramona was a part of the community.

The church was built by the River Brethren, members of a Mennonite sect from Pennsylvania, and was organized as Brethren in Christ.

Plank’s grandmother was Sarah Eisenhower, a first cousin to Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as the Allied Commander in World War II and was U.S. President from 1953 to 1961.

Sarah’s brother-in-law, Adam Book, built the altar for the church in the early 1900s. Abe Eisenhower was the first preacher.

An addition was built onto the church around 1990 for basement classroom space and ground-floor nursery, restrooms, and pastor’s study.

The building has central heat and a full kitchen in the basement. The basement has walls of limestone rock. One basement room is a storm shelter made with thick rock.

Restoring the church has become an expensive, time-consuming project. Frozen pipes caused water damage, and ceiling tiles in the basement were moldy and had to be removed.

The Planks have repainted walls and cleaned up the overgrown landscaping around the church.

Father and son are hoping to have the exterior covered with a shiny, new coat of gleaming white paint by the weekend. They want former members and others in the community to come by and see the results of their labors and also are hoping others will be interested in becoming involved in keeping the church building viable.

Plank said when he heard the church was closing he knew the next likely step would be that it would be torn down, and he didn’t want to see that happen. When he learned it was for sale, he bought the building from the church conference.

“They were glad to see us keep it here,” he said.

Stan and Debbie Wiles of Ramona attended the Rosebank church for more than 20 years.

When asked about what the Planks are doing, she said, “I think it’s awesome. No one wants to see a building like that go into disrepair and crumble.”

Deb Wiles currently pastors the Rock Island Brethren in Christ Church in Herington.

Plank is in the process of moving to Kansas permanently. He travels between Nevada and Kansas while tying up loose ends in Nevada. Justin works for his father right now and works on the church building in his absence.

“I’ve always missed Kansas,” Jay said. “I missed the seasons, and I have work here.”

“We have put a lot of time and money into this building,” Plank concluded. “It would be great if the community can use it.”

To him, the building is as precious as the gold ore he hauled for a mining company in Nevada.

Last modified May 26, 2011

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